By Lord Rami Ranger CBE
I am appalled by the campaign launched for the removal of Mahatma Gandhi’s statues in the UK by misguided and ill-informed few. The statues had been erected by public demand to recognise the immense contribution of Gandhi Ji to the free world. As a result, this protest is unwarranted, uncalled for, unnecessary and above all, counterproductive. If Britain wishes to acknowledge the contribution of a leader who was also the architect for bringing an end to the British rule in India, then it speaks volumes about the vision and values of this great man. I shudder to think what our world would have been today without Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for racial equality which started in Soth Africa. To call him a racist is totally out order when he dedicated his entire life fighting racism, imperial rule and shaped the world as we see it today.
Mahatma Gandhi was not only an Indian leader but a universal icon who inspired people across the globe with his ideals. The civil rights movement in America under Dr Martin Luther King was the direct result of Bapuji’s inspiration. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa by Nelson Mandela is yet another example. It is wrong to show disrespect to someone who put the interests of the oppressed above that of his own? How many people do we know in the world who gave up everything for a cause that they believed in?
Gandhi Ji was well educated and could have easily continued to live a comfortable life like most prefer to do. He gave up his comfort and wealth for the sake of freedom for his countrymen. Still, today a few misguided individuals choose to overlook his herculean struggle for humanity and wish to mock and belittle his great achievements. Had he not shown the leadership, then I doubt India could have gained freedom peacefully through the non-violence movement. Nor would we have seen the Civil Rights movement in the USA and a black President Barak Obama and the end of apartheid in South Africa.
History shows us that there are only a handful of people to have lived and served in the way Mahatma Gandhi did. Condemning or criticising a leader, who is revered the world over by finding fault in him is detrimental to every leader who followed in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi. By trying to tarnish his memory and his teachings cannot take his wisdom and lessons forward to our future generations. The statue of someone who renounced violence and spoke of civility many decades ago, when violence was being perpetrated on minorities by majorities every day acted and acts as a great symbol of peace and harmony. His famous saying, “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind” serves us well even today.
His statues shows that ones objective can be achieved peacefully as long as there is merit in the cause. He once said, “strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will” This was the basis of his peaceful Quit India movement which brought India independence.
Mahatma Gandhi’s wisdom and respect for his principles have spread the world over. Apart from the British monarchs, no other person in history has had stamps issued to honour him as many times as Mahatma Gandhi. Over 50 countries have issued postage stamps to honour Gandhi Ji. This must demonstrate his respect across the world.
History is full of leaders who fought for freedom with arms which resulted in the death and destruction of millions of innocent lives. Still, Gandhi Ji, on the other hand, advocated a peaceful and nonviolent freedom struggle based on Indian values. He knew that violence would generate more bloodshed and disorder, which would result in the loss of hundreds and thousands of innocent Indian and British lives to achieve the ultimate goal of freedom. The loss of even a single life was very precious to him, whether Indian or British. He knew that once people became violent, then their character would change forever and that they would remain violent even after their objective is achieved. We can see people in certain countries where leaders have encouraged to use violence to achieve their goals, and where violence has become ingrained in their culture and character and remains in their DNA long after their objectives have been fulfilled.
Bapuji was a visionary, where some leaders opted for a religious state, Bapuji chose a secular and democratic India where everyone would be equal regardless. He knew that no country could move forward by keeping a section of her population behind by systematically discriminating against people based on their religion, caste or gender. The result is in front of us, as we can see how India is surging ahead, whereas religious-based countries are in turmoil. Leaders in religious countries always keep their citizens down in the name of religion to cover their own failings. This is the reason Indians are shining across the globe because they are the product of a secular and democratic country and as a result, can easily integrate into any society easily and quickly.
Bapuji was unique in many ways. He had no desire to rule people. Instead, it was to serve them selflessly. We can see in some countries, leaders put their interests above that of their people and in the process bring sufferings to people and impede the progress of their countries.
Gandhi Ji’s message of love and non-violence has become even more critical than ever before in our fractured world. Peace can only come when world leaders start to follow Gandhi Ji’s ideals. His statues will remind us of his contribution to non-violence and a peaceful coexistence.
Those who attempt to denigrate the memory of Bapuji, are doing the same for humanity itself, and this cannot be allowed to happen.